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Why Do We Like to Play "Dangerous" Sports?

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by Kevin Kirby, Jul 30, 2009.


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    Since I just loved Mandy's question in our discussion on the relative danger of injury in American football and rugby, I thought it would be very interesting to use her question as a starter for an entire thread on this fascinating subject.

  2. For me, as a younger man, playing and participating in sports that may have involved injury was nothing more than accepting a certain level of risk for doing something that was fun, exhilirating and often times was much more exciting than anything else in my life. I guess "adrenaline rush" is a much-used description of what one feels when they do something that is dangerous, but then escapes injury and has fun doing it.

    Even though I would never do a lot of sports that I considered "dangerous", or ever considerded myself as a "thrill-seeker", I have bungee-jumped, in swan-dive fashion, head first off a bridge in New Zealand, windsurfed under the Golden Gate Bridge and also in the middle of a river with 8 foot high chop with wind gusts of 50 MPH, and rock climbed up a 150' vertical face hanging on a rope in Yosemite Valley, with little care of my own personal safety, all because I felt in control of the situation.

    I see playing rugby, American football, basketball, soccer (i.e. football) and many other sports where injuries occur frequently as similar types of experiences where the collisions, tripping, punching, poking, grabbing and painful injuries that are routine in these sports as, as Simon said, as being maybe "controlled war", where we are allowed to battle our opponents, or ourselves, in some fashion that satisfies some primal urge to fight or put ourselves in danger and then be able to exhilirate in the accomplishment of "winning the battle".

    Maybe it is testosterone, since this type of need to "do battle" seems to be more predominant in males than females and more common in younger individuals than older individuals. However, certainly this type of "battle" is sometimes more healthy for individuals physiologically than the "mental battles" we often are involved in on a daily basis in our workplace or home lives. In these stressful situations, where the "fight or flight" hormonal response is started by a stressful situation, but no significant increased muscular response occurs, then the change in serum chemistry within our bodies may actually cause more harm to our bodies long term than the occasional bruise, sprain or strain that may occur due to participation in "dangerous" sporting events.

    It will be interesting to hear the opinions of others in response to Mandy's original question.
  3. Great video of American football (i.e. gridiron) versus rugby:

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 22, 2016
  4. PodAus

    PodAus Active Member

    Hi Mandy,

    We, as males, tend to take 'high risk' behaviour for granted as it seems intrinsic to our 'coming of age'.

    Whether this is a genetic off-shoot relating to natural selection or just a genetic 'flaw'... I wonder...??

    All typical male behaviours- :butcher: :hammer: :deadhorse: :sinking: :bang:


    Paul Dowie
  5. Wendy

    Wendy Active Member

    I love the comparison between American Football and Rugby....My OH loves to watch AF and tried to explain the game to me however as a long standing rugby lover I still can not appreciate why they swap players and wear so much armour when in rugby 15 players can crash into each other quite happily with minimal protection:D I would agree with Kevin that it may be a testosterone issue in the young male and more effort is put in it if there is a female audience;). There may also be the primeval urge to run with the pack and defend their own territory. It seems a shame that conflicts around the world can't be sorted out with a good old fashioned ruck on the field....
    I have known females to play rugby but not many, there does seem to be a rise in females playing football though they tend to be quite young too. Personally my own sports have been more individual (swimming and archery) I can choose to try and beat others or just my own pb, much more civilised.
    Thanks for starting (yet another) great thread
  6. :good:

    I think this is right on the money. As Kevin says our modern lives have just as many "battles" in them which stimulate the same chemical responses as they did when we were running down wildebeast, however the mechanisms for "dumping" these chemicals don't get used any more.

    I have never been much for team sports but I did used to do martial arts for some years and my beloved always said I was more "scratchy" if I'd not had my fix of hitting people.

    The other thing I used to do as an offshoot of this was board / brick breaking. A stupid, dangerous and pointless endevour if ever there was one since if you fail to break your brick the energy of the blow goes straight back into your hand and arm and if its a "blue core" brick and it breaks wrong you can cut yourself badly. There is, however, a certain simple appeal. There is a housebrick. If you hit it right it will break in two. If you hit it wrong it won't. No amount of procrastination, argument, debate, or altered thinking changes that elegant and simple reality. In the sea of subjective uncertainty in which we wallow there is a fundamental appeal to that.

    Although, funny story. When I was teaching Karate we used to have a "new intake" every few months. I used to arrive early and spend half an hour with some of the established members of the club in order to do those things we really should not do. I did a few brick breaks, one of which went wrong and caused a nasty gash on the back of two knuckles without realising I had done so. Much blood ensued and by the time I realised this I had it all over the arm of my (white) gi. At which exact moment a file of children and adults arrived for their taster session of what had been described to them as a "non contact and safe" form of Karate to see their instructor covered in blood.


  7. Sammo

    Sammo Active Member

    Kevin, Great Video!!!!!

    I used to play alot of rugby and the thing that really did it for me once a team really gelled you would have that sense of comeradery that I've never really felt anywhere else.

    Especially when you play in things like cup finals and go on tour with teams and it gets to the point in the game where every single person has to really put 110% in to the game and put their body on the line for their "brothers".

    You get a kind of bond with these guys that makes you a bit like a family.. Having shared the same experiences.. helped you friends out etc. been through the same trials.

    Of course it is also a wonderful excuse for a beer!
  8. twirly

    twirly Well-Known Member

    I appreciate the 'bonding' involved with team sports. I also see a great deal of pre-match 'battle' strategy hyping up play. I am particularly impressed by the Haka:

    I understand that the chants have altered over time:
    I was unaware that other nations also use traditional war dances in their match rituals:
    Although I am not from or indeed have I ever visited New Zealand I can be carried away by the sense of awe inspired by these warrior like chants. http://www.allblacks.com/index.cfm?layout=haka

    In much the same way as Welshmen singing Men of Harlech brings a lump to my throat & any mass of people all inspired or fearful by a particular anthem or action.

    I have spent much of the last few days scrolling through the internet, Google Scholar & websites devoted to sport. Google scholar divulged some fascinating information & research on the comparisons made between war & team sports.

    I can see a connection & I'm the first to admit that we as humans have a need to compete. What I am trying to understand is even with everyones explanation of why, I have trouble accepting that we really do not appear able to find less aggressive ways of satisfying our thirst for physical excellence.

    Perhaps as someone suggested that we have an innate requirement to continue our programmed past. Possibly also that is why I really
    (no matter how many times my husband lines up jelly tots or smarties) I still do not get the offside rule! :eek:

    I know women also follow/participate in sport as keenly as men so my apologies if I have just set the womens lib' clock back a few eons.

    Many thanks for everyones input. Still learning here.


  9. Mandy,

    I'm a big fan of "Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus". Like the author, John Gray, I believe that men and women have very different needs, different ways of communicating and different ways of resolving conflict in their lives. Therefore, because of this, I wouldn't necessarily expect you to understand the "need" for a man to go do something that seems wreckless and dangerous to you any more than you should expect me to understand why, when a baby is brought into a room with a number of seated women and men, that it is only the women that say "Oooohhhhh....aaaaawwww" and stand up to better see and touch the child, while all the men go on with what they are doing, staying seated, reading their magazine/newspaper, watching the game and/or drinking their beer, belching and then laughing about it.:rolleyes::drinks
  10. Whats not to like?:D:drinks


    PS. Still prefer mead. You can properly "quaff" mead.
  11. Sammo

    Sammo Active Member

    Twirls, whats great about the pre match war dance is when you get teams like NZ and Cook islands facing each other and doing the dance at the same time!!! Spine tingling stuff! Sometimes it kicks off tho.. (3 mins in flying right hook/windmilling)


    (how do you embed video????)
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 31, 2009
  12. twirly

    twirly Well-Known Member

    Wow! :boxing:

    I guess the preparations for war utilised the fight or flight instinct to its fullest. Me, I'd have stood there & cried. Always works ;)

    I remember seeing the Tyson Vs Lewis press conference. The man's obviously had too many E numbers in his cereal. :rolleyes:

    It's much better if you turn the volume down. He looks like he needs to use the loo :D
  13. pgcarter

    pgcarter Well-Known Member

    In a previous life I was an outdoor activities teacher, rock climbing, skiing etc and have participated in some type of risk sport or activity since my teens. There is a whole body of knowledge and theory behind the outdoor pursuits psychology and teaching fields.
    One really important thing to recognize is the concept of perceived danger (subjective danger) as opposed and different to actual danger (objective danger). These two things are often very different at one and the same time, and many activities of low objective danger are perceived to be high risk activities by the participants. Like bungey jumping, they create a large and powerful set biochemical responses in the body, but the objective danger is actually quite low.
    It is also quite possible for the poorly informed to get involved in really dangerous things but fail to perceive the risks. This sort of thing often kills people who go rock scrambling, they are not climbers and have no skills or education through which to guage the seriousness of situations they may end up in.
    There is some recent research in the brain chemistry of risk taking that suggests the hormones produced by high risks can have long term addictive effects and that younger teen agers who get involved in frequent risk taking too early in life actually get "addicted" to the chemistry but need to escalate the risks over time to get the same high. This does not seem to happen with people who come to risk activities a little later in life, late teens/early twenties as opposed to early teens.
    My mountaineering and rock climbing days are well behind me but I still "feed the rat" by regular technical decompression diving. Feeding the rat is an expression used to denote continued feeding of that urge to do something a little risky.
    Kind of catering to the adventure reflex, which very many of us have in one form or another.
    regards Phill Carter
  14. david3679

    david3679 Active Member

    Hi guy's

    I like this tread a lot as it ticks so many of my adrenal crazied thinks I have done in my life. I also recall reading a study that was looking into something similar.
    I have personally strived to try just about anysport activity once and the bigger the rush the better. I have competed at Thai boxing, MMA, Rugby Polo, PAintball is my current activity. I have had a silly amount of injuries as a result. Some thoughts are along the lines of a primative urge the study looked at the individual response to cortisol. The better you were able to deal with the hormonal release dictated your need for danger. I just like it


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